Bigelow entered the cinema by way of the art world, starting her creative life as a painter. She took up formal studies at the San Francisco Art Institute for two years before winning a prestigious scholarship to the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 1971. Bigelow entered the graduate film programme at Columbia University where she studied theory and criticism. Her first short film, The Set-Up[?] (1978), is a 20-minute deconstruction of violence in film. After co-directing Mont Montgomery[?] on the biker movie The Loveless[?] (1982), she co-wrote and directed Near Dark[?] (1987). After some other work Bigelow's star was definitely in the ascendant with the movie Strange Days (1995).
Besides being a director, Bigelow has also modelled for a Gap ad as well as acted in Born in Flames[?] (1983).
Her TV credits include episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street[?] (1997-98), the post-Twin Peaks TV series Wild Palms[?] (1993) and several others. She also directed the music video for the New Order song "Touched by the Hand of God".
Bigelow was married to James Cameron from 1989 - 1991.